Yoga pioneer wants to improve Saudis’ mind, body, and soul

Though undermined and misunderstood, yoga is a mind and body practice that combines physical postures, breathing techniques, and meditation or relaxation. (Supplied)
Though undermined and misunderstood, yoga is a mind and body practice that combines physical postures, breathing techniques, and meditation or relaxation. (Supplied)
Short Url
Updated 15 November 2021

Yoga pioneer wants to improve Saudis’ mind, body, and soul

Though undermined and misunderstood, yoga is a mind and body practice that combines physical postures, breathing techniques, and meditation or relaxation. (Supplied)
  • Nouf Al-Marwaai wants to capitalize on the emerging popularity of the practice

JEDDAH: After nearly 20 years of teaching, training, and promoting yoga in the Kingdom, the new Saudi Yoga Committee president promised that now is the time to take the practice of yoga to a new level.

“We are working on a strategic plan to promote yoga and encourage the society to participate in yoga activities,” Nouf Al-Marwaai, the first certified yoga instructor in Saudi Arabia, told Arab News.
“We want to learn more about yoga for health and well-being as it’s suitable for people of different ages.”
With an outpouring of support for yoga in the Kingdom over the past few years, both practitioners and apprentice yogis have established themselves well in the community as Al-Marwaai wants to ride that momentum.
“We are living in a time of real change,” she said. “I’m more motivated than ever to be a productive and a proud Saudi woman and therefore, I am looking forward to serving my society. I want to be an active part of the changes that are taking place in my country. I am sure many other women in many fields and sectors are also motivated and hopeful as well.”

HIGHLIGHTS

• Nouf Al-Marwaai started practicing yoga in 1998 when she was 18 years old to cope with Lupus, an autoimmune and rheumatic disease that attacks your body tissues and organs. The inflammation can affect joints, skin, blood cells, and other organs.

• Not only did Al-Marwaai recover from Lupus, but she also returned to school and finished a degree in clinical psychology. After school, she established herself as one of the Middle East’s foremost yoga experts with 20 years of experience on the mat.

• She began teaching yoga in 2004 and her success continued to build. By 2012, Al-Marwaai had trained more than 300 yoga teachers from different regions all over the world and taught 3,000 people how to practice yoga.

Though undermined and misunderstood, yoga is a mind and body practice that combines physical postures, breathing techniques, and meditation or relaxation.
Al-Marwaai started practicing yoga in 1998 when she was 18 years old to cope with Lupus, an autoimmune and rheumatic disease that attacks your body tissues and organs. The inflammation can affect joints, skin, blood cells, and other organs.
“Yoga helped me lead a healthier and active life,” she said. “For this reason, I wanted people to know about it and use yoga as a lifestyle.”




In 2018, Al-Marwaai was named the winner of the Padma Shri Award by Indian President Ram Nath Kovind. She was given the award because of her efforts to make yoga accepted as a sports activity in Saudi Arabia.

Not only did Al-Marwaai recover from Lupus, but she also returned to school and finished a degree in clinical psychology. After school, she established herself as one of the Middle East’s foremost yoga experts with 20 years of experience on the mat.
She began teaching yoga in 2004 and her success continued to build. By 2012, Al-Marwaai had trained more than 300 yoga teachers from different regions all over the world and taught 3,000 people how to practice yoga.
Following stints in Australia and India, she assumed the role of “Yogacharya” — a title of respect given to a teacher of yoga — and then set up the Saudi Arabia Yoga School. It was later renamed the Arab Yoga Foundation.
In 2018, Al-Marwaai was named the winner of the Padma Shri Award by Indian President Ram Nath Kovind. She was given the award because of her efforts to make yoga accepted as a sports activity in Saudi Arabia. The event was held in New Delhi at the president’s house.
Al-Marwaai said the Saudi Yoga Committee was established on May 16 with the help of 26 other federations, committees, and leagues by the Saudi Arabia Olympic Committee. The committee was established as the Kingdom’s leadership placed great importance on mental and physical health following the Saudi Vision 2030 by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
“This will help to prevent mental and physical health threats,” Al-Marwaai said. “As we saw during the COVID-19 pandemic, different sports initiatives took place virtually and were supported by Saudi federations. The Ministry of Sports put an emphasis on health and well-being during that difficult time.”




We are living in a time of real change. I am looking forward to serving my society.
Nouf Al-Marwaai

While yoga continued to gain popularity in the Kingdom, the demand grew and was later recognized by relevant health and sports authorities.
“I met Princess Reema bint Bandar in February 2017 and we spoke about yoga recognition and she welcomed the idea,” Al-Marwaai said. “She immediately connected me with a team of experts in the Ministry of Sports to work on the regulations and standards and then yoga was listed as a sports activity in the Ministry of Commerce.”
The Saudi Yoga Committee continues to spread the awareness of yoga through organized activities and events, Al-Marwaai said.
“We are working in the Leadership Institute on yoga standards and a memorandum of understanding to be signed with the Ministry of Ayurveda, Yoga, Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha, Sowa-Rigpa, and Homoeopathy out of India,” she said.
“In addition, we are also participating in the Asian Games second edition event in November sponsored and organized by Saudi Arabia.”
Al-Marwaai affirmed that Saudis are becoming increasingly more health-conscious, which has resulted in a growing demand for a broader range of yoga centers across the Kingdom. In line with this, yoga is becoming one of the most popular physical activities in Saudi Arabia, especially among women. It has created a communal focal point where people can engage in, practice, and experience for themselves the power of yoga and realize the benefits of this ancient technique to improve mind, body, and soul.